Germantown rec center to reopen -- Gazette.Net


As Trevor Samuels stood on the gleaming hardwood of the recently renovated gym, surrounded by the shiny glass backboards and bright orange of the newly installed rims, there was one problem: no basketballs.

As Samuels prepares for the July 20 opening of the Plum Gar Community Recreation Center in Germantown, there are still a few details to be worked out.

The halls are empty, the rooms dark and the chairs around the tables in the arts and crafts room are still arranged neatly.

But there are also boxes stacked along the walls of the conference room that will be rented out to community groups. The 12 desktop computers for the computer lab hadn’t arrived as of Tuesday, and there were no basketballs to bounce in the sparkling gymnasium where Samuels, the center’s director, envisions tournaments filling the court and the two small sets of bleachers along one wall.

The gym also can be set up to host volleyball and badminton, Samuels said.

The center will be available to seniors and for therapeutic recreation activities, as well as for community groups to rent.

Samuels, 40, a former teacher and administrator with Washington, D.C., public charter schools, said he’s looking forward to building relationships with children in the community and their families.

“I’ll probably utilize all of the skills I did as a principal and as an assistant principal and as a teacher” in running the center, he said.

Samuels’ time as a principal has given him experience both in education and managing a facility that the county believes will serve him well in running the Plum Gar center, said Gabe Albornoz, director of the county’s Recreation Department.

Samuels already has interacted with some neighborhood kids playing basketball on the center’s outdoor courts and put them to work interviewing residents about the history of the center. He said he’s eager to hear what they find out.

Educators leave out an important part of children’s development when children are not given time to be active and creative, he said.

The center gives him a chance to help kids learn and do something that interests them, he said.

The renovation will cost about $8.2 million.

A July 20 ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially reopen the Plum Gar center will include Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and other dignitaries.

Ground for the renovation was broken in January 2012.

The county has 24 similiar centers. Although all of them have gym and fitness facilities, the art programs available vary, said Judy Stiles, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County Recreation.

The county sought input from local residents when it was designing the center, she said.

Germantown and the upcounty area has grown rapidly in recent years and created a tremendous demand for services, Albornoz said.

“We didn’t have the infrastructure or facilities to meet that demand,” he said.

Samuels said residents wanted programs for senior citizens and more children’s programs, such as classes on stopping bullying. They also wanted step aerobics and computer classes.

He’s only been at the center since May and admits he’s still getting to know the building and everything it offers. But he strides excitedly through the newly renovated facility, flipping on lights in various rooms to show off his new domain.

Along with the gym and conference room, there’s an arts and crafts room; an exercise room with treadmills, stationary bikes, exercise machines, medicine balls and free weights; and a game room with a pool table and several pingpong tables. There is a social hall with a projector and retractable screen for hosting movie nights and a kitchen full of stainless-steel amenities that can be used to warm food or by caterers.

There will be stations in the game room for an Xbox, a PlayStation 3 and maybe some other game systems and small tables with umbrellas for a patio area off the social hall, where people can sit on nice days, Samuels said.

Ultimately, what the center becomes will be up to the residents who use it, Stiles said.

“I think people really start to take ownership of the facilities. ... It really is their center,” she said.